“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 3:10–4:8, ESV)
As I sit at my desk I see a statuette of the Apostle St. Matthew and I reflect on the witness that has been carried throughout the ages. Now Paul, having written the majority of the epistles in the New Testament, in his letter to Timothy speaks of a reality that was known to be true in his day and continues to be so today. It has to do with a question of in whom we place our hope. Honestly, if you think about much of what Paul writes, it should be surprising how relevant and prophetic much of what he writes is for us. Yet it also highlights that the struggles of his day are not unfamiliar in the history of our faith. It is quite telling when/if we ponder the great depth of what he is speaking about, particularly in the verses quoted above. These letters were not being written to the people “out there” but they were written to Timothy and the people of the faith speaking about the struggles that Timothy was facing ministering to followers of Christ. The desire to soften the Word and find comfort in life without thinking about whether or not what was being done was in line with or completely against the desires and/or commandments of God.
Sometimes it may seem that we as followers of Christ may forget and try and use these words as a criticism of the world, but the reality is that these are words that are meant to cause us to look inward and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in how we may reach out into the world. We know that the Word of God is true and rich, but for those that don’t have the Holy Spirit or are not followers of Christ it is up to us to reach out in compassion by first meeting them where they are at. As followers of Christ it is easy to recognize much of the hurts that are created by the sin that we all fall into and how much deeper it is made when Christ is not in the life of the one suffering. Broken relationships abound int the world along with loneliness and hopelessness. One must read, watch, or listen to the news to see all of the consequences of sin in our fallen world as we see life being valued less and less. Civil discourse seems to be a lost art for the most part as people are demanding that “they be heard.” A little decorum is often appreciated in areas where it was once an expectation.
As followers of Christ we are called into a partnership with one another as we do the work which our Lord and Savior calls us to. This is a much different relationship than many that we see within the world in which many times we are not seen as partners but either the worker and the overseer/manager/boss. As we partner together the desire is to seek out what it is that God is calling each of us to and be in order to be most effective in our reaching out into the world. Unfortunately, sometimes congregations forget there purpose to be a light in the community and often fail to illuminate the glorious radiance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the comfort of her members. The founding pastor of Hossana! Lakeville, an LCMC congregration in Lakeville, MN just outside of the Twin Cities, spoke at the recent LCMC Annual Gathering. Pastor Bill Bohline spoke about how God has blessed the ministry in Lakeville and attributes that much to keeping the focus on mission one of those focus points was moving from the mindset of member to partners in ministry. We are called to partners in the Church in the mission which Christ calls us. The reality is none of are saved by what we want to think or believe, but solely by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that is what we cling to and find our sole hope. In that we should all find comfort and in our lives and our witness we are called to be reflections of his light. The best image I can think of for that would a prism. As we are more oriented to the light that is Christ the more that we shine out his light.
Because God is the promise giver and the works we do do not save us but we rely on the work that has been done our witness is not for our sake, but for the sake of those that don’t yet know Jesus. Shepherds of great flocks have bellsheep that help to guide the sheep. These sheep know the shepherds voice and are obedient to follow so that even those sheep that may not here the shepherd will hear the bell to follow the shepherd. Imagine if one of those bellsheep decided to do there own thing and ignored the call of the shepherd and walked away. Well, some of the sheep that were more familiar with that sheep’s bell may be led astray and into danger. The same is true with us. Obedience isn’t for the sake of our salvation but can have a great impact on those that don’t yet know Christ and don’t yet have the gift or promise of salvation.
This is what Paul was writing to Timothy in his call to remain faithful. There were those that were not proclaiming the Gospel as given by Jesus Christ. They were bellsheep going their own direction and the light that they reflected out was not the light of the Gospel. It was something different yet appealing to those that didn’t find comfort in the Word of God but in their own choices. The Word of God is meant to correct and reprove those of us that follow Christ and is meant to turn us away from our own sinful desire, but to be filled with the love of Christ that we may reflect that light out. As followers of Christ we will fail, we will fall short, yet we can always find hope in the promise of forgiveness from our God. Our failures won’t necessarily affect our salvation, but they do affect our witness. I know that I have fallen short and have been less than charitable and I have my scars from those that have been less than charitable in their treatment of me as a pastor. The glorious gift is the forgiveness that can be found and the forgiveness that can be offered. In the end, in this world, for those of us who seek to be faithful, we will eventually find our end and our lives will be “poured out as a drink offering.” Truth is that in the end none of us survive this world, but will your offering be one fermented with the yeast of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the yeast of the world, will it be a joy filled with sweet offerings filled with the grace of our Lord or will it be bitter and of sour grapes? Fellow followers of Christ my prayer for you and I ask of you your prayer for me is that our lives be filled with the wondrous Gospel of Jesus Christ and that our light shine his light out brightly and not be dimmed by the worldly deceptions. May the grace of Jesus Christ cover you and may you be kept ever in the covering of his love.